Timetable for Bringing International Attendees to the U.S.

Looking to attract attendees from outside the U.S. to your event in the States? Here’s a three-stage strategy to consider over the course of a year.

Author: Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes       

Determining when to launch an international marketing effort requires careful consideration of a number of variables, including event frequency and location, industry budgeting practices, visa and other travel requirements, as well as the competitive landscape. Anjia Nicolaidis, mdg’s international marketing specialist, shares three pieces of advice for timing international campaigns around a prospective visitor’s journey.

1. Build in ample time for awareness.
International prospects must be made aware of your event well in advance for planning and budgeting purposes. While the fiscal year in most international markets runs from January to December, there are exceptions. For example, Australia’s fiscal year runs from July to June and India’s from April to March. Regardless, we find that most international professionals plan their conference participation a full nine to 12 months in advance. International visitors are also considering travel options around trade events long before they actually register. Many plan ancillary business or personal travel in an effort to maximize the the trip’s ROI.

Anjia Nicolaidis

With this in mind, mdg typically begins brand awareness activities a year in advance of an event — especially if the event is new and/or if the prospects are cold — with interest-building messaging kicking in nine months in advance. Keep in mind that once prospective visitors have registered to attend, they may need to apply for a U.S. visa, depending on their country of residence, and that can take months

2. Share program content six months out.
Most organizers will start to see an uptick in conversions to registration six months prior to the event, assuming they are effectively communicating its value proposition to prospects. This is when campaign activities should move from building awareness and interest to creating engagement and prompting action. This means placing more emphasis on your event’s high-value content by showcasing your keynote speakers, matchmaking programs, networking events, innovations that will be featured on the expo floor, and industry influencers who will be participating.

3. Prioritize leads in the final push for registrations.
Marketing and messaging across domestic and international segments in the final three months tend to focus almost exclusively on conversion. We pay attention to leads that have shown higher levels of engagement — they’ve attended in the past, visited the website, clicked on ads, watched videos, and/or otherwise interacted with our communications. This is also when we shift marketing efforts away from the most distant countries as well as those that have rigorous visa and travel restrictions to zero in on the countries in closer proximity to our events. Finally, we compare how we’re tracking on a country-by-country basis with previous editions of our event to determine if there are any last-minute course corrections we can make to try to close any gaps.

Visit the U.S. Department of State website for more info on visas and business travel at convn.org/state-visa.